By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, February 16, 2007
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON BEACH-- Members of the Guthrie family are planning to pick up the pieces after a fire destroyed three cottages they owned at Hampton Beach on Wednesday afternoon.
"It's been a lot of tears," Andrew Guthrie said, after seeing the devastation for the first time on Thursday. "There is nothing left. This was my daughter's college education fund."
The Valentine's Day fire was the second worst fire in recent times at Hampton Beach. The worst was the one that destroyed The Old Salt Restaurant and other buildings on Ocean Boulevard in 1999.
Wednesday's fire destroyed five summer cottages and damaged four other homes at the corner of Dover and River streets.
Guthrie, who was in Boston at the time of the fire, said he found out what happened from one of his neighbors.
"They told me not to even bother coming up because there was nothing left," Guthrie said.
Guthrie said he was told the fire started in one of his cottages, but he doesn't know what could have caused it.
"I just feel so bad," said Guthrie, holding back tears. "I feel bad for my neighbors and I feel bad for the vacationers who come up here each summer and will have no place to go."
Hampton Fire Inspector Jeff LeDuc said the cause of the fire is labeled "undetermined" at this time.
Guthrie said he was at the cottages last week, but he didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.
"The only thing I noticed was a ladder underneath one of my windows," Guthrie said. "But there was no holes in the screen or damage to the property so I didn't think anything of it. I should have went in and checked to see if everything was OK."
The fire was called in by Catherine "Cappy" Crowley around 2:42 p.m. She spotted flames coming from one of the Guthries' cottages while looking for police on their way to assist a neighboring elderly couple who was without power.
Guthrie and his brother, David, purchased the summer cottages six years ago. They rented the cottages during summer months to families who have made it a tradition to stay there each season.
"We didn't tell our wives when we first bought them, " Guthrie said. "When we did finally tell them we covered ourselves by telling them that we were going to name two of the cottages after their mothers."
Guthrie said they named the cottages the Gertrude, the Patricia and the Kathy, which was named after his and David's mother.
He said he believes the wood frame single-unit cottages were 60 to 80 years old.
"I would just like to thank the Hampton Fire Department," Guthrie said. "They did the best they could."
Guthrie said he and his brother have already decided that they plan to rebuild.
"We are going to rebuild," Guthrie said. "But we are going to build cottages. We want to keep the same character of Hampton Beach."